RUBINA’S RADAR | SHOBHAA DE’S BOOK LAUNCH IN MUMBAI & A CELEBRATORY FASHION MILESTONE IN LUTYENS DELHI

RUBINA’S RADAR

The magnificently restored Royal Opera House a historic address in Mumbai since its inauguration by King George V in 1911 and India’s only surviving opera house relegated to redundancy in the 90s, is now open to the culturati. It is no longer just a geographical landmark on the Uber app, but a live destination that’s marking up newer glories contrasting from its original, sepia-toned ones today. This vintage Baroque edifice was where author and columnist, not to mention “ready-to-be-lynched-for-anything” Shobhaa De launched her latest book, Seventy And To Hell With It on a fine December evening last Wednesday. At the garden gathering amidst family and friends, De was on fire, as a discerning hostess in a cobalt blue, custom couture blouse by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and a real zari Jaipur Kota Doria sari greeting her guests, with her luminosity lighting up the de riguer photo-ops and selfies. She then went on to breathe fire in her role as a celebrated author on stage, in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt and Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.

The conversation revolved around sex, the celebration of age and beauty in every stage of a woman’s life, the empowerment of women and the power of speaking up, changing the patriarchal guard and living your life wholly on your terms to a full (Opera) House. De’s quintessential ability to turn anything on its head without so much of an arch of her eyebrows or her “De resting face” with a diverse point of view that could swing from radical to pure nonchalance is what makes her one of the most read and heard “Made in Mumbai” voices in India. Had I been in conversation with her about the book on stage, my opening question would have been “How is sex at seventy, Shobhaa?” because her immediate response would have been far more entertaining and memorable than the latest Bollywood film!

In Delhi, designer Ashish N Soni celebrated a milestone in the fashion business, with a Lutyens lawn gig at The Lodhi. The mannequins looked exquisite in Soni’s all-black Spring Summer 2018 line in a contemporary hard-metal open-air installation tent, alongside a white garment installation which was as enchanting as it was dreamy, exhibiting his structured and minimalistic design ethos beautifully.

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Ashish N Soni SS ’18

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Yuvraj Singh and Ashish N Soni

There was Artificial Intelligence to talk to Soni nd Saif Ali Khan (Taimur’s father!) about all things fashion which was interesting, but the Glam-Cam was a monster fail. A garden gig on a Saturday night in the freezing cold temperatures of Delhi surprisingly brought out the warmth in all its glamorous guests, well, almost all. To attend an alfresco cocktail event like this is a Game of Thrones gamble – you either winter wing it in Uggs and cashmere or you whinge all night about the cold, over endless drinks, which is rather unfashionable.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

India Couture Week 2017’s 10th Anniversary Edition

The Fashion Design Council of India’s annual event extraordinaire, India Couture Week 2017, celebrates its 10th edition this year with a seven-day fashion extravaganza in New Delhi. The luxuriously indulgent runway week commences on July 24th with opening shows by designers, Rohit Bal and Anamika Khanna, and a grand finale on July 30th by Manish Malhotra with his Sensual Affair

A legendary vanguard of Indian fashion and a headliner for all things luxurious, couturier Tarun Tahiliani, will exhibit his Tarakanna collection on July 26th at 9.30PM at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. “This year our India Couture Week show is about lightness, borne by a new construct and a conscious desire to make the most floaty couture that women desire to wear a hundred times over. Tarakanna is stardust,” says Tahiliani in his quintessential smoky voice. 

Rohit Bal’s ICW show is offsite, at the restored Bikaner House on opening night at 9.30PM. “My collection is an ode to lost craft and tradition. A journey from the past to the present with a gentle nudge of contemporary influences. It is an effort to revive heritage pieces from the costume collections of royal Mughals which have been immortalised in museums. The collection highlights an amalgamation of traditional craft with modern sensibilities preserving its timeless beauty,” says Bal of his new collection.  

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017 

Fashion Design Council Of India Presents India Fashion Week Autumn / Winter 2017

The Fashion Design Council of India’s Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2017 edition celebrated India’s immense talent in the world of fashion, right from handloom revivalists to the unabashedly glamorous. Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani, Alia Bhatt and Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi made for some great photo ops and the Delhi sunshine demanded iced lattes on the hour to keep up with the frenetic pace of the week.

Here is the FDCI presented India Fashion Week 2017 in pictures:

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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium entrance

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Siddartha Tytler

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Siddartha Tytler

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Alia Bhatt for Namrata Joshipura

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Malini Ramani

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Vaani Kapoor for Rina Dhaka

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Pankaj & Nidhi

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Nachiket Barve’s sari

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Madhu Jain

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Rara Avis sari

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Golden Threads of Assam mannequin

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Tarun Tahiliani & Amit Aggarwal’s Grand Finale

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Opening Day

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Opening Day

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2017

From Couture To Carats, Bibhu Mohapatra Designs His First Jewelry Line, Artemis For Forevermark India

Each season, New York based, Indian fashion designer, Bibhu Mohapatra’s collections play out a new, olde world story on the runway, a historical throwback to some of the most fascinating men and women that ever lived, and this year is no different.

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       Fern Mallis with fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra 

Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a journalist and photographer in Europe during the 30s fueled his Bauhaus inspired SS 16 line and the audacious Empress Dowager Cixi, a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, who went on to become a ruler of the Chinese Qing dynasty, his Fall RTW16 collection with dominant hues of red, at New York Fashion Week in February this year. He couldn’t be more paradoxical in his design approach, elegantly consummating the past with the contemporary, with the visual flourish of an artist. What made him embody the spirit of Empress Dowager Cixi in his collection this time around? “Courage and confidence are the two qualities that I admire the most in people. My muses always have these qualities in common and Empress Cixi was a dreamer. With her focus and perseverance, she went from being a young concubine to a ruler of the Chinese empire for half a century. My clothes, inspired by her, are meant to bring out those qualities in women and empower them,” said Mohapatra of his current muse.

Mohapatra is not the biggest name in the fashion business, yet, or the go-to designer for the coveted Met Gala or the Cannes red carpet photo-ops, but his designs are worn by some of the most influential and ingenious women in the world – the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Priyanka Chopra, New York Fashion Week creator, Fern Mallis and the stunning model du jour, Kendall Jenner. It is an incredible triumph for his young eponymous fashion label that launched its first collection in Fall 2009.

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Kendall Jenner in a Bibhu Mohapatra outfit (2015) Picture Credit Unknown 

From dreaming up fashion runways in his hometown Rourkela, in Odisha, India, to designing for Halston and J Mendel, his Economics degree from Utah turning fashionably expendable in the interim, to settling down in New York with his own atelier in the Garment District, Mohapatra’s heart is “most humbled and gratified” with the distinguished set wearing his designs. Interestingly, it was fashion connoisseur Fern Mallis and author of Fashion Lives – Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, who suggested his name to Michelle Obama’s stylist when they were exploring young, new designers, making the initial connection for Mohapatra, and that’s how the most famous woman in the free world came to wearing, and loving his designs. “I love Fern! She is one of my closest friends and a huge supporter,” said Mohapatra, who recently launched a jewelry line, his first, in collaboration with Forevermark India called Artemis in Mumbai.

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A piece from Bibhu Mohapatra’s Artemis line

Mohapatra is ecstatic about this new creative dimension his design sense is roused by. He finds designing for both, couture and carats, “very different, with the only similarity designing for both being the ultimate target consumer who wants the same finesse, style and quality in the fine jewellery that is intrinsic to the garments I design. I have always dreamt of working with diamonds and designing a fine jewellery collection and this collaboration came about from a casual meet and greet with the Forevermark team in India about two years ago. So, before I actually got around to discussing this opportunity with the Forevermark team, I was reassured by the brand about the responsible sourcing of its diamonds, which was one of the most important and key deciding factors for our collaboration. It took more than a year to put the Artemis collection together and we have about 35 pieces in all and the collection is growing.”

Is the Artemis line an extension of his creative pursuits as a women’s wear designer? “Artemis is an extension of my brand as a lifestyle brand. When I had my first meeting with the Forevermark team, it became apparent to me that not only will I get to work with the finest of diamonds to create some unique pieces, but I will also get the opportunity to create something that will be available to a broader clientele, rather than just to a select few. Artemis is a collection of iconic pieces that are eternal. The sun, the moon and the stars play a powerful role in our lives and our loves and all creations in the world. For over 5,000 years, Vedic Astrology has provided a method of understanding the compatibility of couples. I have combined the forms and phases of the sun, moon and the stars to create a sensual, romantic line that brilliantly comes to life in the Artemis collection. The different shades of gold represent the sun, the moon and the stars and the Forevermark diamond at the heart of this collection embodies all the closely held secrets of the universe. The muse of this collection is someone who is well exposed to the world and appreciates the craft of fine jewelry and believes that these pieces are not merely for decoration; but that they represent a state of lives together.”

There is almost always a celebratory female power, barring the odd male, in the characters Mohapatra picks out from historical archives for his mood board that resonate in his arresting, structured designs that stems from a deeply personal, feminine chord. “I have been shaped by women in my life, namely my (late) mother and my sister. My mother gave me everything I have today. She not only taught me how to sew, but she instilled the design sensibility in me. My sister indulged me by wearing my hand-stitched designs at home, but it was a gold jacquard top with a pale yellow chiffon skirt that she wore out at a function that got people talking and gave me the feeling that I was doing something right. I was so proud of my tailoring in that outfit. My sister has refined taste and she only wears select pieces of mine that suit her lifestyle. I am always inspired by women, not only professionally and creatively, but also personally,” said Mohapatra, who likes to describe himself as an “emotional designer”. “I call myself an emotional designer because I see clothes as tools to improve and empower the lives of the wearers by providing them with confidence. I am inspired by real people and deeply moved by their stories. The stories that shape the character of a person become my key sources wherein I draw my references from whilst working. Sketching and designing are both emotional processes for me.” If he had no creative or financial restraints and were asked to run free with his imagination to create a spectacular dress, who would he make it for and how expensive would it be? “Well, it would have to be for someone really special and the value would be priceless.”

Mohapatra is the only Indian designer based in the United States with an atelier in New York’s Garment District, an enviable international clientele, and stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford in China retailing his designs, but he does not have flagship stores in India or anywhere around the world, yet. “It’s in the pipeline. It’s my dream to open my first store in New York. All good things take time,” says Mohapatra, who desires “to be present in many parts of the world, touching as many lives as I can with my clothes, jewellery and other products.” Given that he loves cooking and traveling his “two passions after designing”, he could very well expand his brand into a home and living line soon.

The designer finds the fashion sensibility of the Middle East “incredibly refined and interesting”. Will the Artemis line retail in Dubai soon? “We just launched in India and our focus will be the Indian market for now. Dubai is a great city and the women there have such a definitive style. We will definitely look at launching Artemis in the Middle East in the future.”

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 25 May, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Disclaimer: Kendall Jenner’s picture is from an unknown source on Google. If you own this picture, we’ll be happy to rightfully credit it to you. 

I Get This Amazing Positive Energy From Salman Khan And I’m Very Inspired By Him, Says Indian Fashion Designer Vikram Phadnis

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Salman Khan

Indian designer Vikram Phadnis has held fashionable ground, and successfully at that, in the Indian fashion industry’s fiercely competitive and evolving landscape, for the last 25 years.

It is a prodigious victory, transitioning from a film choreographer to fashion designer, that called for a celebratory commemoration of the same with a special runway show held in January in Mumbai. None other than Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, walked as the designer’s showstopper, amidst enchanting and glamourous attendees.

Phadnis’ impervious and composed countenance and his single-minded focus on actualizing his dreams of dressing up the world in his designs, contributed largely to this accomplishment, but not without a few steadfast friends, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan being the most formidable influence in his life. In Dubai for the Aaraish show, the designer spoke exclusively to Rubina A KhanGulf News tabloid!

What is your biggest strength, surviving and thriving for 25 years in a ferociously competitive and predominantly Bollywood driven fashion business in India?
I don’t think I can call it my strength as such, but I am a very driven and ambitious person inherently, and I think inadvertently, that has become my strength over the years. Whatever I have achieved in my life as a choreographer in the entertainment business and the last 25 years as a fashion designer, is due to my ambitious drive and that I am almost never satisfied or content with my work. If you are not driven or focused and are not willing and able to deliver every single time, and slip up, there are a dime a dozen people ready and waiting to take your place. You have to keep at it constantly, be consistent and innovative and strive for new goals and benchmarks with each collection or outfit. Like in a Bollywood actor’s life, Friday is the most important day at the box office for every film of his to determine his value and worth, for a designer, it is every single time he makes an ensemble or puts a collection together for a showing. It is a constant endeavor every day.

Did you feel taller than Amitabh Bachchan, who was your showstopper, on your very well-attended commemorative show, Adhvan, in January?
I just felt completely humbled and I felt so blessed walking down the runway with him. I have worked with him on films like Waqt, Hum Kisi Ke Kum Nahin and Bade Miyan Chhote Miya and I can just say that there are no more men like him anymore. He is truly exceptional. He’s the only man I call Sir in the world.

Would you consider yourself among India’s top three talents in fashion?
I don’t know. There are far more commercially viable and well-known names in India’s flourishing fashion business than me and I have never measured my success with the strength of others’ success. There’s always someone ahead of you and there’s always someone behind you in the business. It depends on the perspective you see it from really.

Who, according to you, are the top designers of India?
Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and Monisha Jaising.

Who were, and still are, your biggest supporters in your career path?
People like Hemant Trivedi, Mehr Jesia-Rampal, Priyanka Chopra, Malaika Arora-Khan, Kareena Kapoor-Khan in a big way, have supported me enormously, and still do, and are a very important part of my successful journey as a fashion designer and undoubtedly Salman Khan, without whom I don’t think I would be who I am today.

How has Salman Khan impacted your career?
Whatever I am today is really because of Salman. He showed me a whole new world, when no one understood me. I worked with him for 13 years as a designer, and he gave me so much without expecting anything back. He gave me a standing in the entertainment business, his professional support and backing, and personal strength. When I wanted to quit choreography and go and study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, USA, he convinced me to stay back in India and helped me find a footing as a designer. He took me in all his film projects, and opened my first store in Mumbai. He was never selfish about anything, allowing me to work with other actors alongside working with him, not restraining my creative freedom, and gave me more than even I could imagine. Till today, there’s a picture of Salman that hangs in my cabin in my office. I am inspired by Salman and get this amazing positive energy from him, always. Salman is the older brother I never had. He made me travel worldwide with him and introduced me to people everywhere. In fact, the first time I traveled abroad was to Dubai with Salman! I had never sat in an aircraft before or had any idea of what a plane even looked like from the inside, and I had obviously never been outside India either. This is 30 years ago! It was a stage show Salman was doing back then that he had taken me for. Dubai was not even remotely like what it is today. It was on the verge of the modern and magical explosion that Dubai is today. Dubai feels like home to me and every time I travel to Dubai, it has a newer dimension to it.

What, or who, has been a constant muse for your designs?
I don’t create clothes with one particular muse in mind. I make the garment according to the person I am working for, or the collection that I am putting together. I don’t think a single inspiration or muse can transpire into an entire collection or a garment for different kinds of people.

Which is your favourite, and most memorable contribution, as a designer to the fashion world?
I think everything that I have designed and created for Salman Khan – be it the dhotis, hot shorts, sarongs… made an impact on Indian fashion, because prior to him wearing them, no one was wearing these garments on screen, and the fact that he carried them off so well made them extremely popular and on trend all of a sudden. Also, getting the opportunity to dress up international model Naomi Campbell, the South African President Jacob Zuma and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar in my clothes have also been memorable moments for me as a designer.

Is there anybody rich and famous in India who does not wear you?
There are so many people who have not worn my clothes! And I do not run after the rich to wear my designs or even think like that. You never know who your ultimate buyer is when you’re creating a garment anyway. I like to make wearable and affordable clothing that is essentially commercially viable. I do not make impractical clothes for the runway that a person can’t wear off it. I like to see people, all kinds of people, wearing my clothes in the world, and not see them hanging on the walls of my studio.

What is it about Dubai fashion that intrigues you?
Fashion is more forward in Dubai than in most other countries. Like I said earlier, Dubai is the first international place I set foot in and it is home to me and I feel I understand the fashion landscape here quite well. When it comes to fashion, the people in Dubai know it all and more! And the best part of Dubai is dressing up its women! They are just so fashion forward and clued in, that it keeps me on the edge constantly and drives me to give them my best. And it also helps that I have a great fashion network and database in Dubai.

Are designs in Dubai driven largely by what Bollywood is wearing, or your designs and craftsmanship?
No, I don’t think the fashion in Dubai is necessarily driven by Bollywood trends. The taste here is very diverse – some like their fashion ethnic, some prefer fusion, some go for the quintessentially traditional designs and some stick to haute couture. There is not one set pattern that the fashion here adheres to and that is what keeps it, and makes it, so fashionably exciting. It’s like a year-round fashion runway, from prat to haute couture, celebrating fashion globally.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 13 February, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016